Artist Larry Folding Honored With Gold Award

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Topics: local artist , Senior issues

Artist Larry Folding.

     Artist Willem de Kooning once said that watercolor is the first and last thing an artist does.
     For 87-year-old artist Larry Folding, watercolor is the first, the last and everything in between, as it is the medium to which he has dedicated his artistic life for nearly six decades. Folding’s painting “Bridges” was recently awarded the Gold Award at the New England Watercolor Society Signature Members’ Show at the Guild of Boston Artists, the highest honor among the 80 paintings selected for the exhibit.
     Folding said that his desire to become an artist began in grade school.
     “I took a three-year extension course at the Rhode Island School of Design, and in 1958 I was drafted into the army,” Folding said. “I came home in 1960. At that time watercolor wasn’t that popular. You couldn’t take a class anywhere. I signed up for several watercolor classes at the Fitchburg Art Museum and the Worcester Art Museum, and they’d cancel due to there being no interest and not enough students signing up.”
     Eventually the rest of the world caught up to Folding’s interest in watercolor, and classes became available. Over the years he attended classes at the Worcester and Fitchburg Art Museums as well as workshops taught by masters in the field, including Don Stone on Monhegan Island, Maine; Edward Minchen; Judy Wagner; Ron Ranson; Hillary Page; Peter Spataro; Alvaro Castagnet; Don Andrews; Tony Couch; along the Maine Coast and in Europe with Carlton Plummer and lately with Joseph Zbukvic and David Taylor.
     Although other pursuits took center stage for portions of his life, including his marriage to Aline in 1962, raising the couple’s two sons and two daughters, building a career and playing golf, Folding’s desire to paint endured. He started by purchasing a watercolor kit, accidentally picking out a set of opaque colors because as a beginner, he didn’t realize transparent colors existed. Once he discovered transparent watercolors, a whole new world opened up to him.
     “Then I discovered the freedom of watercolor,” Folding said. “It’s a unique approach to painting. If you paint something yellow, and if you put blue over it, it turns to green. For example, I didn’t use any green paint at all in ‘Bridges.’ I find that the more you paint, the more forgiving it is.”
     Watercolor is considered a challenging medium by many artists due to its unpredictability. The liquid pigment flows freely, making it more difficult to control than a thicker paint. The marks are lighter and look different dry than they did wet, and since the colors are translucent, covering up mistakes isn’t really an option. Everything shows through the layers. Folding found that as he experimented more and more, he found ways to correct mistakes.
     “It’s a technical medium. It involves a lot of timing, a lot of awareness of the moisture on the paper and the humidity in the air,” Folding said. “There are a lot more variables involved with watercolor than with oil painting. There are a lot of different things you can do, such as mixing the colors on the palette, but a lot of things happen once you put the colors on the paper. It happens on its own. While the colors are wet, they are intermingling, and lots of things happen; happy accidents and sometimes unhappy accidents. You can’t try to overcontrol it. You have to let it do its own thing sometimes.”
     As with many creative endeavors, sometimes the lessons learned are about the art, and sometimes the lessons learned are about the artist.
     “I am not a patient person at all. Sometimes I am impulsive,” Folding said. “When I am trying something new, I try to approach it by keeping in mind that it is only a piece of paper. If it works, great. If not, I will try it again. There’s a lot more art than science in it.”
     Folding is a prolific painter, creating about five original works every week. During workshops, he picks up the pace, completing as many as 20 paintings in a five-day period, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. In spite of his productivity and accomplishment, however, he remains humble and objectively critical of his work.
     “I think that progress comes very slowly,” Folding said. “You can paint a painting, even when you are starting, and some come out good, some bad. Some have sections of good and bad. As you paint more and more, the sections start to change. They aren’t all good. Some are pretty bad. I think one out of 10 ends up being good.”
     Folding is a Signature Member of the New England Watercolor Society, a Master Artist Member of the Cape Cod Art Association, and a member of the Guild of Harwich Artists, the Creative Arts Center and the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. His work has received many awards over the years, including second place in the All New England Open at the Cape Cod Art Center in 2022, Best New England Landscape at the Cape Cod Art Center (CCAC) All New England Open in 2021, honorable mention in the CCAC National Open 2021 and Best in Show at the CCAC Bay State Open in 2019. He was surprised and delighted to learn that his painting “Bridges” had been given the Gold Award.
     “When they called and told me, I was very surprised,” Folding said, “It’s so subjective. The same painting won a second prize in another exhibition. So one judge gave it second, and the one in Boston chose it for first place. It’s the biggest award I’ve ever won.”
     To see more of artist Larry Folding’s work in watercolor, visit